transition, through chowder

There’s been a change in the air these last few weeks…have you felt it? Just the slightest shift in temperature, a chill in the evenings that makes sleeping with windows wide open not only possible, but pleasant. The breeze is changing, carrying with it the scent of a backyard grill, the sound of fallen leaves skipping along pavement, a smattering of goosebumps across a forearm. Afternoon light has a new quality, a dreamy, golden hue that elicits memories of high school football games, apple picking, the feel of a scarf wound loosely about the neck.

Autumn begins officially today, but I’ve seen signs of her impending arrival for most of September. I won’t deny my excitement, for this time of year is truly my favorite, but I will miss the bounties of Summer. There’s been an urgency to our visits to Charlottesville’s City Market each Saturday for three weeks now. A pressure to gather up one last load of roma tomatoes to roast, to pick up a dozen freestone peaches knowing they’ll be absent until next July, to seek out a few more ears of fresh corn before being forced to rely on the kernels stashed away at the back of the freezer.

I bought our first butternut squash just last week. It stood out in our market basket, a dull cloud against the sunset of tomatoes, peaches, and eggplant. Once home we roasted it to sweet perfection before pureeing it with celery, onions and carrots into an earthy potage. The recipe is an Autumn staple, one that will grace our table many times in the next few months. We loved the soup that night as we always do, but still, I wasn’t quite ready for it.

What I wanted instead was a chowder we’d made the week before, one that took advantage of the last of Summer’s produce while introducing the initial tastes of Autumn. Those final few ears of sweet corn, the bell and jalepeño peppers, the first potatoes and carrots of Fall, a cream base with heat that hits from the belly out, all come together to create a soup that perfectly represents this time. The transition from one season to another, from tank tops and flip flops to light jackets and closed-toe flats, embodied in a chowder.

A chowder perfect for those of us on the fence, clinging to Summer while welcoming Fall.

I mentioned, way back at the end of August, that I’d found a new trick to releasing corn kernels from their cob. Well, here it is friend.  I introduce to you the bundt pan, a vessel so perfectly designed for handling fresh corn that I feel it should be marketed in that way.  Sure, it also makes a pretty cake, but really, lots of pans can do that. The central tube fits the end of an ear of corn quite perfectly, and as you cut the kernels from the cob they fall neatly into the pan. No more corn kernels all over the counter and floor. I am probably the last to discover this handy trick, but wow, was I excited when I did. My dogs, however, miss the sweet kernels falling from above.

Spicy Potato Corn Chowder

adapted from Gourmet, July 2008
serves 4 as a first course

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1.75 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (3.5 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalepeño peppers, minced (no seeds unless you want your soup really spicy)
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 California bay leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk (1% or 2%)
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Method

  1. Cut corn from each cob.
  2. Bring cobs, water, broth, potatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large pot. Boil, covered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard cobs.
  3. Meanwhile, cook onion, carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is pale golden, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add bell pepper, jalepeño, corn, thyme, bay leaves, and one ladle of liquid from potato/corn pot. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in potatoes with water/broth and cream and gently boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in milk.  Be sure not to allow soup to boil after this point, as milk will curdle. Heat through, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  7. Use an immersion blender to pureé some of the vegetables, to thicken soup.  Be sure to leave some large chunks of potatoes, peppers, and corn. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle two scoops of soup into a regular blender and pureé, then add back to soup pot.
  8. Stir in scallions, white pepper, cayenne, and salt to taste, then serve.

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29 responses to “transition, through chowder

  1. I have to tell you, I have seen a lot of corn chowders recipes lately and thus far, this is my favorite one! It seems perfectly rich without being overly so…and I love all the vegetables you’re incorporating in there, not just potato and corn!
    Thanks for this recipe!

    -Amalia.

    http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.com

  2. What a brilliant trick! Thanks, Andrea!

  3. that’s exactly how i remove kernels from corn cobs — in, i think, the very same bundt pan! this soup sounds so warming right now, and the flavor combination a nice balance of sweet, spicy and creamy. now i’m in the mood for a good chowder…

    *heather*

  4. slurp,….thanks for the virtual treat

  5. I just made a chowder last week too using the last of sweet corn I could find at the local market. Yours is gorgeous and I love the spice kick!

  6. that corn looks so fresh and flavorful!

    ive noticed the change… in my allergies! ha

  7. So Andrea, you get me completely hooked on your blog and then BAM show up once a month! I am very sad- we miss you when you are not here, we know you are very busy, but we know you are still shopping, cooking, photographing and eating beautiful treats! Please come visit us more often :)

  8. What beautiful photos! I’ve been eating up the last of summer’s corn and this looks delicious – I’ll have to give it a shot! And I too am loving the chilly fall air. Bring it on!

  9. I love corn chowder but it never occurred to me to make it spicy. That would be so perfect for a cold winter night to warm me inside and out.

  10. What an incredible looking chowder – perfect for chilly fall nights :)

  11. Even when it’s hot and muggy outside, I can’t bear to wean myself off soup. So I’ve been enjoying corn chowder for awhile now—but where my August version was brothy, I think it’s time the torch got passed to your cream-based version. Hello, fall!

  12. hmmm, might have to try the bundt pan thing. it sounds logical, but tricks like that never work for me, like the one about hardboiling eggs, removing the ends of the shell, and then blowing them out? i got that to work once, ever. btw, i think it’s supposed to be 87 degrees in nyc today!

  13. bundt pan? genius!!

  14. Mm. chowder. Haven’t had it in awhile, and I live on the New England seacoast. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. It’s great being able to run over here to see what a local, fellow food blogger is buying at the City Market. I fully understand the bit of frantic-ness you feel in needing to squeeze in as many visits as possible before winter settles in… Love the combination of comfort and late-late-summer freshness in this recipe!

  16. Oh drool, I LOVE chowder but it’s not something I’ve ever seen on a mnu now I live in Austria, guess I’ll have to find some corn at the market…

  17. THIS LOOKS INSANELY YUMMY!! perfect for the weather we’re having. mmmm amazing!!

  18. That’s SUCH a great tip for cutting corn off the cob – thanks :) That chowder recipe looks fabulous. Definitely one worth whipping up!

  19. This looks delicious! And I just checked out your photo blog- you are one seriously talented gal ;) I could learn boatloads from you!

  20. This looks like a wonderful recipe! Thinking about making it for dinner tonight. Thanks!!

  21. mmmm. I love chowder with tons of veggies. Beautiful shots!

  22. Hope you are having a great fall! :D

  23. wow..I’m a soup addict…so this looks just incredible to me…
    love,
    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  24. Oh this looks so delicious! I love soup so much. :)

  25. i love it got to make one thanks for sharing…

  26. It’s winter already and I’m looking forward for a newer post. meanwhile I am contented with this yummy looking chowder. A perfect treat for winter! YUM! :)

  27. I’ve never made chowder, but this definitely looks amazing

  28. This looks fantastic – fall OR winter!

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